Man gets 65 years for killing off-duty Cook County Sheriff's officer

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One of two men convicted of killing an off-duty Cook County Sheriff's officer outside a Bellwood VFW hall was sentenced to 65 years in prison. (WLS)

One of two men convicted of killing an off-duty Cook County Sheriff's officer outside a Bellwood VFW hall was sentenced to 65 years in prison Friday.

"It's never going to take the emptiness from our hearts, but it's the beginning to healing our hearts," said Melinda Santamaria, the slain officer's sister-in-law.

A Cook County judge sentenced Brandon Jackson, 27, after he was found guilty of murder and attempted armed robbery in January for the December 2013 shooting of Cuauhtomec Estrada. His accomplice, Gage Thornton, pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

"He does not want us sitting around here crying and being miserable. We need to move forward," said Deputy Sheriff John Webb, Estrada's co-worker.

In court, the Bellwood man sat emotionless as Judge Paula Daleo handed down her sentence. The defendant's family wiped away tears as the judge made her ruling saying, "Your path should not have led you to the night of December 20th, 2013. You made choices. All choices require responsibility. You must take responsibility for your actions."

In her victim impact statement, Estrada's youngest daughter expressed her family's anger and sorrow saying, "Brandon Jackson made a decision about my dad's life, now it's in your hands to decide what to do with his life."

The cop's slaying happened as he hosted his annual Christmas party. He was shot and killed as he tried to stop two armed masked men trying to rob his daughter and her boyfriend.

Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Dan Groth called Jackson an opportunist and a predator while asking the court for the maximum sentence.

In contrast, Jackson's public defender described him as a good person left traumatized by an abusive childhood. While reading a letter of support from Brandon's aunt, she said, "Brandon is a very smart young man who chose the wrong path."

The death of the father and grandfather - who before spending 20 years as a sheriff's deputy was a Marine who served in Desert Storm -- has left a family and a community grief-stricken. They say perhaps now they can heal and maybe forgive.

"It finally came to an end. We can move on. Not to remain bitter toward Brandon Jackson because forgiveness is a big thing for me, I think all of us," said Patrice Estrada, the slain officer's sister.
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officer killedsentencingBellwood
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